Although we have best friends or favorite relatives, if most of us were given the option of being joined at the hip to another human being, we would unhesitatingly reject the offer.
Some people may be great company, but would you choose absolute inseparability? Probably not.
However, when you think about it, you are in the company of somebody every single second of every day of your life, from the moment of your birth to your final, faltering breath.
The person I am referring to is You.
The one human being you will never escape the present company of is yourself. In light of this fact, doesn’t it make sense to be your own best friend?
To the ears of some people, this is interpreted as a desperate attempt to assuage feelings of loneliness. Others believe it is the epitome of narcissism. Actually, neither could be further from the truth. Regardless of how many friends a person has, or how intimate their relationships are, the fact remains that we are all better served by being our own best friends.
The gist of this reasoning is that when we truly love ourselves, we will only allow people into our inner circle who care about us and promote our well-being. And, in the words of the counselor and author Lucille Zimmerman, “Taking good care of yourself means the people in your life receive the best of you rather than what is left of you.” A healthful relationship with oneself nurtures healthy relationships with others.
As for linking the kind of self-love we’re talking about with narcissism, it’s not even comparable to mixing apples with oranges. It’s more like mixing maniacal porcupines with seeing-eye dogs. The first is dangerous and detrimental, while the latter serves as a genuinely helpful guide through life. To love oneself in a healthy way is not to fall romantically in love with a deluded ideal of oneself. Rather, it is to humbly recognize your intrinsic worth and care enough about yourself and others to be the best version of yourself that you can be.
Here are seven keys to being your own best friend.
1) Self-Compassion. When we have compassion for others, we feel their suffering, and because of this are moved to alleviate it. Oftentimes, though, we ignore the catalysts of anguish in our own lives, or, worse yet, create our own suffering by way of our thoughts and behavior. We should care about ourselves enough to act on behalf of our well-being.
2) Acceptance. You can never be a true friend to somebody you don’t fully accept. You can be an acquaintance or a pal, but to really befriend another person is to see them without judgment or labels. It is to recognize their shortcomings, their flaws, and their muddled history of mistakes and mishaps, yet extend to them your warm hand anyway. Likewise, we should all accept ourselves for the human beings we are.
3) Forgiveness. Nobody is perfect. We have all erred, but we learn as we go, hopefully. Or, perhaps some people never learn. Regardless, it is in your best interest to cleanse yourself of the toxicity of resentment by forgiving those who have caused you harm, including yourself. When we cling to the pain and anger generated by transgressions, we disempower ourselves and diminish the quality of our lives. You deserve better than that. Be your own best friend by letting the negative energy go.
4) Courage. According to renowned psychiatrist Gerald Jampolsky, “Fear can be known as the most virulent and damaging virus known to humankind.” That is a wide-net statement, but not at all an exaggeration. Fear has done more to cause interpersonal conflict and internal discord than anything else known to humankind. It both compels irrational behavior and paralyzes us in our tracks. It insists we hide behind facades and squander our awesome potential. Learn to work through your irrational insecurities and illusory demons, and witness your life open to unimagined possibilities.
5) Self-Talk. We each have a chatterbox in our heads that relentlessly spews opinions, distortions, and criticisms all day long. It fabricates storylines in an attempt to give meaning to the events of our lives, albeit more often than not they are erroneous interpretations of them. It is in our better interest to censor the ruckus between our ears. Out with the self-sabotaging hullabaloo, and in with the empowering soliloquy. Whether we readily recognize it or not, we do have a choice as to what transpires in our minds.
6) Authenticity. When you live aligned with your true purpose, you will enjoy waking up every morning. How could you not? In a commencement address to the graduating students of Stanford University, Steve Jobs shared that, “For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” When people are living their lives authentically, that answer is a resounding Yes coupled with an exhilarating enthusiasm.
7) Dignity. Sometimes it’s just plain difficult to retain a sense of dignity in today’s world. The media regularly portrays happiness as an ethical free-for-all where anything goes, as long as you are thoroughly entertained. We take unsatisfying jobs and work for belittling bosses because the pay is good, or we ignore another’s humanity in order to capitalize on existing opportunities. But when we do these types of things, we violate our own sense of dignity, thus our spirits slump like wet sweaters dripping from wire hangers. Love yourself enough to say no to the indignities of life. Take heed to the words of Michael J. Fox: “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized, and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
You have spent every moment of your entire life in your own company, and will continue to do so until the day you die. You can either spend that time with somebody you love, trust, and care about, or with a menace who misleads you, berates you, and strips you of your sense of self-worth.
Be your own best friend. You—and everybody else—will be the better for it.
Author: John Langenfeld
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Sean McGrath/Flickr